Are You a Naturalist?

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 26, 2009 in Worldview Naturalism

african_moonriseIf you’re a naturalist, you believe there is one, natural world. There is not an extra, supernatural world hiding cleverly behind the natural world. There’s just this world, the one we live in.

You don’t have to be a philosopher or scientist to be a naturalist. You’re probably a naturalist because you noticed that supernatural claims are usually based on subjective experiences and special thinking. (“My visions and miracles are genuine, and contradictory supernatural visions and miracles are hoaxes, or else the work of demons.”) Or else supernatural claims come from an ancient book written by people who didn’t know the earth went around the sun.

Not wanting to believe falsehoods, you decided to be more careful with your beliefs than that. You demand evidence for your beliefs. And since you haven’t seen any evidence for a supernatural world, you only believe in the natural one.

We might not always like what science tells us about ourselves and our place in the universe, but that’s the price of being responsible about how we form our beliefs.

Science tells us we are not special. We are part of this natural world just like chimpanzees and grass. Just as there is no big magical God “out there,” there is no tiny magical you “in there.” You are just atoms and neurons and tissue and water and bacteria, all of which respond to natural laws.

Well, you’re not “just” those things. A beautiful sunset is just sunlight being filtered through air, but it is also a beautiful sunset. And you may be just atoms and neurons, but you are also a person, a person who loves and laughs, who can do what he desires, who does good and evil, who discovers things and appreciates beauty and dreams dreams.

The naturalist celebrates that nature is enough. Nature is all we need to secure freedom, reason, morality, happiness, and purpose. Tom Clark writes:1

Indeed, the realization that we are fully natural creatures has profoundly positive effects, increasing our sense of connection to the world and others, fostering tolerance, compassion and humility, and giving us greater control over our circumstances… So we can justly call it worldview naturalism: an overarching cognitive, ethical and existential framework that serves the same function as supernatural worldviews, but without trafficking in illusions. By staying true to science, our most reliable means of representing reality, naturalists find themselves at home in the cosmos, astonished at the sheer scope and complexity of the natural world, and grateful for the chance to participate in the grand project of nature coming to know herself.

spacewalk

  1. This quote is from Tom’s post Worldview Naturalism in a Nutshell, which was also the inspiration for my own post today. []

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Sabio Lantz December 26, 2009 at 7:01 am

Enchanted Naturalism is more than just Science

Fun post. I would like to add one small safeguard:

Clark says science is “our most reliable means of representing reality”. OK, maybe science is good at representing the reality I touch and manipulate and try to build on. But something has to be said for stories, images, poetry, music, dreams and all the rest that represents the reality I treasure — these are also tools we use to learn, remember, feel, taste, and enjoy my life. These tools are much different than the tool call “science”. So I don’t know if I want to call science the “most reliable means of representing our reality”. I realize that a more complete, inclusive epistemology is complicated to say simply — perhaps I am nitpicking. I like the emphasis on science but perhaps Enchanted Naturalism can incorporate more than just science.

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antiplastic December 26, 2009 at 7:40 am

And if you are a squodgist you believe there is one, squodge world.

What’s a squodge?

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Rob December 26, 2009 at 7:47 am

I wonder if the accusation of an “optimism delusion” raised by David Benatar against Dawkins does not also apply to this conception of naturalism:

It is one kind of delusion to think that one’s life has meaning because it fits in with God’s plan when, in fact, there is no God. It is another kind of delusion to think that one’s life has meaning because it fits in with one’s own plan when, in fact, one is mistaken that one’s own plan can endow (the right kind of) meaning.
http://vorosh.blogspot.com/2008/03/optimism-delusion.html

Perhaps, though, the pathos of participating in the supra-personal enterprise of “nature coming to know itself” is supposed to provide or constitute the right kind of meaning?

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ayer December 26, 2009 at 8:55 am

Rob: an “optimism delusion”

I agree; this “enchanted naturalism” is just a form of atheism that looks into the abyss and flinches. Other forms are easier to respect, e.g.:

http://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2009/06/21/abandon-all-hope-ye-who-enter-here-happy-face-atheist-marketing-v-albert-camuss-pessimistic-atheism/

Also, this business of being enraptured by “nature coming to know itself,” is, on atheism, just mystical mumbo-jumbo. One cannot simultaneously hold that the fact that the universe is fine-tuned to produce sentient life is an unremarkable fact that does not cry out for an explanation, and that the fact that the universe is “coming to know itself” through sentient life is a remarkable fact that should make us “grateful” (grateful to what or to whom, anyway?)

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Haukur December 26, 2009 at 9:53 am

ayer: Also, this business of being enraptured by “nature coming to know itself,” is, on atheism, just mystical mumbo-jumbo.

So Luke is actually a confused pantheist?

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Rob December 26, 2009 at 10:16 am

Alex Rosenberg’s “Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality” and the thread of comments, particularly those by Clark, Leiter, as well as Rosenberg’s reply to them all, are all apropos:
http://onthehuman.org/2009/11/the-disenchanted-naturalists-guide-to-reality/

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ayer December 26, 2009 at 10:47 am

Haukur: So Luke is actually a confused pantheist?

I think atheist flinching in the face of the abyss often takes the form of longing looks (not full-blown belief) in the direction of something like pantheism, or what C.S. Lewis called belief in the “life-force”:

C.S. Lewis: “When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling
on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?”

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lukeprog December 26, 2009 at 10:51 am

Rob,

The “enchanted naturalist” article people are linking to is my response to Rosenberg.

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Mark December 26, 2009 at 11:17 am

What is with all the “you”s and “we”s?

Not wanting to believe falsehoods, YOU decided to be more careful with YOUR beliefs than that. YOU demand evidence for YOUR beliefs. And since YOU haven’t seen any evidence for a supernatural world, YOU only believe in the natural one.

You, you, you. I know all about you. You are like me. Together we are unified in our beliefs. Thus WE are one. That is, we form a body of belief. We are religious in those beliefs. We even have a God. We call “her” nature. Together we are “astonished” by her. We are “grateful” to participate in revealing her. We “love” life and people and living.

Oh we are a great paradox! Look at us! The harder we try to deny God, the more we resemble Him. The further we try to distance ourselves from Him, the more intimate we become with His beauty. The more we write Him off as a lunatic, the more we ourselves begin to look like lunatics.

Come, join us, the profoundly confused worshipers of nature. Come give thanks to “her” for her anonymous “beauty.” Come all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant. Come ye o come ye, to praise the dandelion.

“astonished at the sheer scope and complexity of the natural world”

Oh? And to whom shall we ascribe the sheer scope and complexity of mere astonishment?

and grateful for the chance to participate in the grand project of nature coming to know herself

Grateful? To whom or what? The term “grateful” implies an act of GIVING and a response to it. Whom or what has given something and what is it about said gift that DEMANDS gratitude? Please do tell o enlightened one, Luke ;)

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Mark December 26, 2009 at 11:32 am

I have more respect for hardcore atheists than “naturalists.” At least the hardcore atheist worships man, an image of God. This makes him far more sane than the naturalist, who worships a flower Goddess he calls “nature” and anthropomorphically ascribes words to her such as “gratitude.”

The naturalist’s use of such words as “gratitude” to describe his sentiment towards the mysterious, beautiful “great mother nature” he worships inspires in me slightly less intellectual respect than I would have for a man who thanked his newspaper for remaining at his table while he relieved himself in the restroom.

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Rob December 26, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Thanks, Luke, for the pointer to your response to Rosenberg’s “disenchanted naturalism.” It rather confirms my suspicion that deep and perhaps ineliminable temperamental differences are at work in addition to substantive points of variance (e.g. “free will”) among the host of stances atheists take to a de-divinized world. For instance, although for me Santa Claus outlasted the Christian god by around a year or so, and I’ve never been susceptible to hankering after any watered-down theistic alternatives, I can’t seem to escape a gnawing sense, while fully realizing this is a function of culture and temperament, that the kind of meaning Judeo-Christian theism confers is the only kind of meaning available to disarm the harsh deliverances of the bleak naturalism to which I subscribe.

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Sharkey December 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm

ayer:

Also, this business of being enraptured by “nature coming to know itself,” is, on atheism, just mystical mumbo-jumbo. One cannot simultaneously hold that the fact that the universe is fine-tuned to produce sentient life is an unremarkable fact that does not cry out for an explanation, and that the fact that the universe is “coming to know itself” through sentient life is a remarkable fact that should make us “grateful” (grateful to what or to whom, anyway?)  

False dichotomy. Luke, keep up the intro to logic posts, they are sorely needed.

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Haukur December 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Mark: I have more respect for hardcore atheists than “naturalists.” At least the hardcore atheist worships man, an image of God. This makes him far more sane than the naturalist, who worships a flower Goddess he calls “nature” and anthropomorphically ascribes words to her such as “gratitude.”

It gets so confusing when you use ‘worship’ in a metaphorical sense where you can say that those who don’t worship anything are somehow actually worshipping X, Y or Z. There really are people who worship Nature, who do participate in organized religious ceremonies in honor of Nature and so on (as the Wiccans say – You call her Mother Nature, I call her Goddess). But Luke doesn’t do that. Hey, maybe he should, but as far as I know he doesn’t.

As for people worshipping ‘man’ or worshipping themselves that’s also something the atheists don’t actually do. It’s LaVeyan Satanists that do that.

Mark: The naturalist’s use of such words as “gratitude” to describe his sentiment towards the mysterious, beautiful “great mother nature” he worships inspires in me slightly less intellectual respect than I would have for a man who thanked his newspaper for remaining at his table while he relieved himself in the restroom.

You totally lost me there. Surely you bring the newspaper with you to the restroom!

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Haukur December 26, 2009 at 5:01 pm

ayer: If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children.

The Christian God interferes with people doing shabby things? I though he was all about free will. But Lewis is always a fun read, I loved his Screwtape Letters.

ayer: The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you.

A 2005 Eurobarometer poll breaks Europeans down in the following way:

* 52% I believe there is a God
* 27% I believe there is some sort of spirit or life force
* 18% I don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force
* 3% Don’t know

Looks like the life force is going strong.

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Justfinethanks December 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I love it when theists cast scorn on happy atheists and quote some of the more dour thoughts by Sartre or Nietzsche, because it really tilts their hand as propagandists. A classic example is Craig’s maddeningly insulting and patronizing claim that one can’t consistently be happy and be an atheist, as if some sort of existential comfort is necessary to be happy. (I’m actually more sympathetic to the Buddhist idea that happiness is a choice and a skill, not so much dependent upon outside stimulus) On the other hand, you never see atheists quoting say, some of the more existentially depressing musings of John Calvin regarding our state of affairs in order to argue against theism.

They know that the biggest barrier people have to rejecting supernatural claims like theism isn’t any argument or counterargument, but rather the widespread belief that atheism equals despair. Once that barrier is removed, and people start seeing that there is joy in grasping the natural world as it is, people are more free to choose whether or not naturalism is the more likely option or not. But theists can’t have that, so they work hard to keep their flocks terrified at the very thought that we live in a naturalistic universe.

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Haukur December 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Sharkey: False dichotomy. Luke, keep up the intro to logic posts, they are sorely needed.

Admittedly I don’t have a lot of philosophical training but it doesn’t look to me like ayer was presenting a dichotomy at all – it looks like he was arguing that there was a contradiction in something someone else said. Regardless, ayer is clearly fairly philosophically sophisticated. I doubt that whatever you disagree with in his posts would go away with more philosophical training on his part. To take another example, Cartesian is obviously extremely philosophically sophisticated and yet I’m guessing you didn’t feel inclined to agree with him in the recent hilarious thread about Auschwitz, smallpox and whether existence is a good thing.

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Sharkey December 26, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Haukur: I think both ayer and cartesian have limited logical training, but that might be a result of my bias as someone studying logic and computer science. The rigor I’m used to may not be the standard in their philosophy training.

Ayer wasn’t referring to a specific person, ayer was referring to ‘atheism’, then implied the two options are either indifference or gratitude; this obviously leaves out a multitude of viewpoints between those extremes, not including viewpoints outside that simplistic gradient.

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ildi December 26, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Regardless, ayer is clearly fairly philosophically sophisticated.

Tomato, tomahto: philosophically sophisticated, sophist…

I agree; this “enchanted naturalism” is just a form of atheism that looks into the abyss and flinches.

Ok, I read the damn thing through twice, as well as Luke’s link. What abyss? What flinching? Are you seriously saying that there’s no way an atheist can be happy while accepting that nature is enough? This is basically what Sagan was saying in Cosmos. Pretty happy atheist.

Also, this business of being enraptured by “nature coming to know itself,” is, on atheism, just mystical mumbo-jumbo.

Let me ‘splain it to you then. We (humans) are part of nature. We have invented the scientific method, which turns out to be an invaluable tool for understanding how the world works. Therefore, nature (of the subset humans) is coming to know itself (the complete set that includes humans). No mumbo-jumbo, especially no mysticism.

the fact that the universe is fine-tuned to produce sentient life

The fact is, the universe is fine-tuned to make stars. Well, I don’t know about fine-tuned; it makes stars. And galaxies, lots of those… and planets, pretty sure lots of those, too. And dark matter, a boatload of that… pretty amazing stuff! Enchanting!

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ayer December 26, 2009 at 7:38 pm

ildi: The fact is, the universe is fine-tuned to make stars. Well, I don’t know about fine-tuned; it makes stars. And galaxies, lots of those… and planets, pretty sure lots of those, too. And dark matter, a boatload of that… pretty amazing stuff! Enchanting!

While dozens of characteristics have to be precisely set for a possible universe to permit life, I am unaware of a similar requirement for a possible universe to permit dark matter–but I would be interested in seeing your evidence for that.

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Beelzebub December 27, 2009 at 12:18 am

ayer: While dozens of characteristics have to be precisely set for a possible universe to permit life, I am unaware of a similar requirement for a possible universe to permit dark matter–but I would be interested in seeing your evidence for that.  

The latest Scientific American has an article about multiverses and “fine tuning.”

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Ben December 27, 2009 at 7:24 am

I like that image of the astronaut. Have a link to a bigger version?

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ildi December 27, 2009 at 7:46 am

dozens of characteristics have to be precisely set for a possible universe to permit life

By life you mean life as we know it, right? If the parameters had been different, there’s no reason to suppose that life in another form wouldn’t have evolved. Once something has happened, the probability of its occurrence is one. The odds of winning the lottery are tens to hundreds of million to one, but once you’ve won it, the odds become one for that event.

We live in a magnificent, awesome, incredible, uncaring, harsh universe that we’re just beginning to understand, and the only reason to believe that we somehow are the center of it is FEAR.

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lukeprog December 27, 2009 at 7:47 am

Ben,

TinEye will hook you up. Do the search, then sort the results by size.

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Ben December 27, 2009 at 7:52 am

lukeprog: Ben,

TinEye will hook you up. Do the search, then sort the results by size.

Wow, awesome. Thanks.

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ayer December 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

ildi: By life you mean life as we know it, right?

No, actually the fine-tuning is necessary for the universe to permit any form of life. Thus, the chance that the universe would permit life of any kind is infinitesimal.

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Lee A. P. December 27, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Fine tuning makes God out to be a scientist. Naturalism still wins.

Such an idea makes more sense with regards to an advanced extraterrestrial intelligence rather than a super duper invisible, omni-max God, much less a 3-headed Christian God.

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ildi December 27, 2009 at 2:05 pm

fine-tuning is necessary for the universe to permit any form of life

Evidence (scientific), please!

Thus, the chance that the universe would permit life of any kind is infinitesimal.

No, that is not how probability theory works. This is some creationist meme, isn’t it?

What do you mean by “the universe permits life?” The universe is. Life is. Conditions exist so that life has evolved on this planet. We don’t know (yet) what other life has evolved in the universe.

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ayer December 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm

ildi:
Evidence (scientific), please!
No, that is not how probability theory works.This is some creationist meme, isn’t it?What do you mean by “the universe permits life?” The universe is.Life is.Conditions exist so that life has evolved on this planet. We don’t know (yet) what other life has evolved in the universe.  

See http://discovermagazine.com/2008/dec/10-sciences-alternative-to-an-intelligent-creator

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Lee A. P. December 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Apparently ayer never heard of Hawkings “top down” cosmology”.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19025481.300-exploring-stephen-hawkings-flexiverse.html

No other answer besides “Magical Triune Christian God” is permited in his analysis.

And I also bet that ole ayer regards the multiverse as a scientific conspiracy to keep God out rather than an idea that that quantum mechanics, string theory and inflation theory all converge towards. And I’ll bet even if the multiverse was proven, ole ayer would just shrug and come up with some way as to how it would be impossible without Triune-Christian-God-Jesus-omni-max-Bible-God.

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ildi December 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Both articles were very interesting. If Linde’s “physicist hacker” scenario has merit, then life should be teeming on pretty much any Earth-type planet.

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ayer December 27, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Lee A. P.: Apparently ayer never heard of Hawkings “top down” cosmology”.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19025481.300-exploring-stephen-hawkings-flexiverse.htmlNo other answerbesides “Magical Triune Christian God” is permited in his analysis.
And I also bet that ole ayer regards the multiverse as a scientific conspiracy to keep God out rather than an idea that that quantum mechanics, string theory and inflation theory all converge towards. And I’ll bet even if the multiverse was proven, ole ayer would just shrug and come up with some way as to how it would be impossible without Triune-Christian-God-Jesus-omni-max-Bible-God.  

Interesting article, but as it points out at the end, Hawking’s model is just another nonfalsfiable construct like the multiverse. As the article says: “For many, it remains a difficult argument to swallow. Science since Copernicus has aimed to model a universe in which we are mere by-products, but top-down cosmology turns that on its head, rendering the history of the universe a by-product of our observations. All in all, it is very like the “anthropic landscape” argument that is causing controversy among string theorists.”

Yes, you can believe the universe is a by-product of our own observations if you like–but that is a metaphysical explanation that requires more faith than positing God.

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Justfinethanks December 27, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Hawking’s model is just another nonfalsfiable construct like the multiverse.

Isn’t it a wee bit hypocritical to charge people with giving unfalsifiable explanations for the state of the physical constants, when the one you are proposing (ITS GOD) is itself unfalsifiable? Besides, once you start talking metaphysics, its all essentially unfalsifiable.

It would make more sense to argue why your particular unfalsifiable metaphysical explanation is more probable than competing unfalsifiable metaphysical explanations, but I’d hardly expect a Christian apologist to have that kind of consistently or integrity. Instead you would rather assume that there is only one good explanation (Yahweh), and any other one simply MUST be silly atheists running away from that obvious conclusion.

Yes, you can believe the universe is a by-product of our own observations if you like–but that is a metaphysical explanation that requires more faith than positing God.

Holy hell, I haven’t heard the “It takes less faith to believe in God than to believe in…” chestnut in months. It’s usually employed by Ravi Zacharias or Lee Strobel types, not people who fancy themselves philosophically sophisticated.

Considering that the history of science is one long revelation that our belief that man is central to the universe is really just the result of myopia, it would be fairly unsurprising is the apparent fine tuning is merely just another example of that.

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Rob December 27, 2009 at 8:17 pm

The Science Network’s Origins Symposium might be of interest: http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/origins-symposium

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drj December 27, 2009 at 10:44 pm

ayer: I think atheist flinching in the face of the abyss often takes the form of longing looks (not full-blown belief) in the direction of something like pantheism, or what C.S. Lewis called belief in the “life-force”:

Or, just perhaps, its some for of pantheism or deism that many find more rationally defensible when compared with Christian theism (or the other popular theisms). Therefore, many rationalist atheists will be likely to at least entertain the ideas, even if only briefly, as possibilities.

Given that I truly know or see few atheists who truly live up to the crazed, nihilistic, amoralist lifestyle that strident apologists insist that we all seek (and purposefully rejected God for), I have to say my explanation seems the better one.

To cause further problems, I have to say that many Christians are quite good at engaging in post-hoc rationalizations for some seemingly un-Christian-like behaviors, without even so much as a single thought spent on the possibility of abandoning their faith. One simply doesnt need to resort to the full on abandonment of Christian theism to indulge one’s sinful desires, with little to no guilt.

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lukeprog December 28, 2009 at 7:24 am

Thanks for the link, Rob.

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ayer December 28, 2009 at 9:25 am

Justfinethanks: Isn’t it a wee bit hypocritical to charge people with giving unfalsifiable explanations for the state of the physical constants, when the one you are proposing (ITS GOD) is itself unfalsifiable? Besides, once you start talking metaphysics, its all essentially unfalsifiable.

I have no problem with physicists giving unfalsifiable metaphysical explanations as long as they are advertised as such and not as “scientific” explanations. They are philosophical, not scientific.

Justfinethanks: It would make more sense to argue why your particular unfalsifiable metaphysical explanation is more probable than competing unfalsifiable metaphysical explanations, but I’d hardly expect a Christian apologist to have that kind of consistently or integrity.

No, I am entirely in favor of debate as to which metaphysical explanation is best; that is exactly what William Lane Craig does in his work. But it is precisely that–philosophical debate that makes use of scientific data; it is not “doing science” itself.

Justfinethanks: Considering that the history of science is one long revelation that our belief that man is central to the universe is really just the result of myopia, it would be fairly unsurprising is the apparent fine tuning is merely just another example of that.

The interesting fact is that as science advanced in the 20th century, it became more, not less, apparent that the universe is specifically designed to permit life. This was an entirely unexpected pointer to theism that has shocked cosmology (which is why the Discover magazine article calls it “the biggest problem in physics”).

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ildi December 28, 2009 at 10:12 am

I have no problem with physicists giving unfalsifiable metaphysical explanations as long as they are advertised as such and not as “scientific” explanations. They are philosophical, not scientific.

Same criticism that experimental physicists make. The key differences is that these philosophical ponderings are based on science, not some bronze/iron age writings, and the next step is experimentation, rather than tortured apologetics.

No, I am entirely in favor of debate as to which metaphysical explanation is best; that is exactly what William Lane Craig does in his work.

Lies make Baby Jesus cry.

The interesting fact is that as science advanced in the 20th century, it became more, not less, apparent that the universe is specifically designed to permit life.

From an interview with Linde in Slate:

But then Linde thought of another channel of communication between creator and creation—the only one possible, as far as he could tell. The creator, by manipulating the cosmic seed in the right way, has the power to ordain certain physical parameters of the universe he ushers into being. So says the theory. He can determine, for example, what the numerical ratio of the electron’s mass to the proton’s will be. Such ratios, called constants of nature, look like arbitrary numbers to us: There is no obvious reason they should take one value rather than another. (Why, for instance, is the strength of gravity in our universe determined by a number with the digits 6673?) But the creator, by fixing certain values for these dozens of constants, could write a subtle message into the very structure of the universe. And, as Linde hastened to point out, such a message would be legible only to physicists.

“You might take this all as a joke,” he said, “but perhaps it is not entirely absurd. It may be the explanation for why the world we live in is so weird. On the evidence, our universe was created not by a divine being, but by a physicist hacker.”

Linde’s theory gives scientific muscle to the notion of a universe created by an intelligent being. It might be congenial to Gnostics, who believe that the material world was fashioned not by a benevolent supreme being but by an evil demiurge. More orthodox believers, on the other hand, will seek refuge in the question, “But who created the physicist hacker?” Let’s hope it’s not hackers all the way up.

Big jump from these musings to your BFF Jesus, don’t you think?

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lukeprog December 28, 2009 at 10:23 am

From Linde to Jesus…

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ayer December 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

ildi: Big jump from these musings to your BFF Jesus, don’t you think?

Looks like it would definitely be game over for atheism and “enchanted (or disenchanted) naturalism”, don’t you think? Craig does not assert that the fine-tuning and cosmological arguments give you full Christian theism. You add the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus to achieve that. The fact of the resurrection then provides the foundation for the authoritativeness of the entire Bible and the full doctrines of Christian orthodoxy.

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ildi December 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Looks like it would definitely be game over for atheism and “enchanted (or disenchanted) naturalism”, don’t you think?

It could provide evidence for an intelligent being creating the universe. At best (from the theist perspective) it could provide evidence for deism. In fact, his theory actively disproves an interventionist deity. From the same article:

But why bother making a universe if it’s going to run away from you? Wouldn’t you want to have some power over how your creation unfolded, some way of making sure the beings that evolved in it turned out well? Linde’s picture was as unsatisfying as Voltaire’s idea of a creator who established our universe but then took no further interest in it or its creatures.

“You’ve got a point,” Linde said. “At first I imagined that the creator might be able to send information into the new universe—to teach its creatures how to behave, to help them discover what the laws of nature are, and so forth. Then I started thinking. The inflation theory says that a baby universe blows up very quickly, like a balloon, in the tiniest fraction of a second. Suppose the creator tried to write something on it surface, like ‘Please remember I created you.’ The inflationary expansion would make this message exponentially huge. The creatures in the new universe, living in a little corner of one letter, would never be able to read the whole thing.”

A little bit of a rock and a hard place, huh? If science is providing evidence that “the universe is specifically designed to permit life,” it also may providing evidence that this life is pretty much on its own.

Ah, now we come to the tortured apologetics:

You add the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus to achieve that.

He did a pretty crappy job of showing that there is any historical evidence in his debate with Bart Ehrman at College of the Holy Cross in 2006. He is a theologian and philosopher, after all, not a historian, so maybe he’s not all the up on how historical research is conducted.

So, what do we have so far? A non-interventionist intelligence may have created the universe, and there is pretty much no historical or scientific evidence that anybody at any time came back from the dead and thus could lay claim to being a god.

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ayer December 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm

ildi: In fact, his theory actively disproves an interventionist deity.

Linde is an example of why scientists should stick to science, and leave metaphysics to the philosophers.

ildi: He did a pretty crappy job of showing that there is any historical evidence in his debate with Bart Ehrman at College of the Holy Cross in 2006. He is a theologian and philosopher, after all, not a historian, so maybe he’s not all the up on how historical research is conducted.

Actually, it was Ehrman who got thumped in that debate; it was all over when Bayes Theorem came up and he geve no indication of having ever heard of it or of how it rendered his Humean presuppositions void.

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TK December 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm

“Well, you’re not “just” those things. A beautiful sunset is just sunlight being filtered through air, but it is also a beautiful sunset. And you may be just atoms and neurons, but you are also a person, a person who loves and laughs, who can do what he desires, who does good and evil, who discovers things and appreciates beauty and dreams dreams.”

An excellent point. This has always been my problem with the theistic argument from morality. Simply because humans are a collection of semi-deterministically-behaving molecules, it doesn’t follow that that’s all we are. We instinctively know we’re something else, too – a very special arrangement of such molecules.

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ildi December 28, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Linde is an example of why scientists should stick to science, and leave metaphysics to the philosophers.

I’m not surprised you don’t like where the science actually leads you. So, this means we’re not going hear any more from you about how Linde’s theories are “the biggest problem in physics,” then, are we?

when Bayes Theorem came up

Oh, you mean the fancy-schmancy equations he threw up as a smokescreen to make this point?

That Jesus rose naturally from the dead is fantastically improbable. But I see no reason whatsoever to think that it is improbable that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Um, dude, saying that you believe God can do magic doesn’t count as historical evidence. Using probability theory to prove “it happened because I believed it happened” makes me think of Disraeli’s famous quote:

There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics.

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ayer December 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm

ildi: So, this means we’re not going hear any more from you about how Linde’s theories are “the biggest problem in physics,” then, are we?

The apparent fine-tuning (independent of Linde’s or anyone else’s theory) is “the biggest problem in physics”, as recognized by cosmology. Linde’s theories trying to explain it are his metaphysical musings.

ildi: Um, dude, saying that you believe God can do magic doesn’t count as historical evidence.

Sorry, saying “that doesn’t count” because you don’t like the conclusion is not a refutation.

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ildi December 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm

TK: I think you’d appreciate this particular xkcd comic:

Lego

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ildi December 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Linde’s theories trying to explain it are his metaphysical musings.

You really don’t understand science at all, do you?

Sorry, saying “that doesn’t count” because you don’t like the conclusion is not a refutation.

Are we speaking the same language? By “doesn’t count” I mean “that doesn’t qualify as.” For example, if you tried to pay the clerk at the carryout with dried beans instead of cash, and the clerk said “that doesn’t count as money,” it doesn’t mean the clerk doesn’t like the particular dried beans you were trying to use.

So, you seem to know squat about science or historical research; I guess it’s lucky you’re “philosophically sophisticated.”

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ayer December 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm

ildi: You really don’t understand science at all, do you?

You really don’t understand the difference between science (empirically falsifiable) and metaphysics (not) do you?

ildi: Are we speaking the same language? By “doesn’t count” I mean “that doesn’t qualify as.”

You also seem confused as to difference between historical evidence and the use of that historical evidence to support an explanation (just as the use of scientific evidence can be used to support the premises of a philosophical argument).

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ildi December 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm

You really don’t understand the difference between science (empirically falsifiable) and metaphysics (not) do you?

Yes, I do. Did you actually read the article you linked to?

You also seem confused as to difference between historical evidence and the use of that historical evidence to support an explanation

You do get that you have to have historical evidence to begin with? Saying “I don’t find it improbable that God brought Jesus back from the dead” is not historical evidence.

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ayer December 28, 2009 at 8:40 pm

ildi: You do get that you have to have historical evidence to begin with?

Did you actually watch the debate that you referenced? Craig’s whole argument is an inference to the best explanation from the historical evidence.

ildi: Yes, I do.

Good. Then you realize that none of the proferred explanations of fine-tuning is falsifiable. That is why Susskind, one of the fathers of the “cosmic landscape” multiverse idea, has been campaigning against the idea that theories must be falsifiable to qualify as science. See http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=68

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drj December 28, 2009 at 8:58 pm

ayer: The apparent fine-tuning (independent of Linde’s or anyone else’s theory) is “the biggest problem in physics”, as recognized by cosmology. Linde’s theories trying to explain it are his metaphysical musings.

The universal constants may be a puzzling mystery in physics… but I’m sorry to say that theism doesnt solve the mystery in any compelling or parsimonious way. I feel that we can agree all day long that this is a big problem in physics. Where we would probably disagree is that, in my opinion, there is no ground conceded to theism by such an admission – at all.

As some of us have said elsewhere, the theory of a personal God is little more than conjecture over the existence of some other unobserved, finely-tuned constant, upon which the others are contingent.

At the end of the day, the multiverse versus God is simply one force versus another. One finely-tuned intelligent force that builds a single universe for a single purpose, versus a less finely tuned mindless force that churns out many universes. My money is on the mindless force, since for one thing, minds seem to require material.

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oliver December 28, 2009 at 9:11 pm

ayer: Looks like it would definitely be game over for atheism and “enchanted (or disenchanted) naturalism”, don’t you think? Craig does not assert that the fine-tuning and cosmological arguments give you full Christian theism. You add the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus to achieve that. The fact of the resurrection then provides the foundation for the authoritativeness of the entire Bible and the full doctrines of Christian orthodoxy.  

Ha ha ha.. ayer is so funny.

Ildi, why do you even bother?

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ayer December 29, 2009 at 7:01 am

drj: At the end of the day, the multiverse versus God is simply one force versus another. One finely-tuned intelligent force that builds a single universe for a single purpose, versus a less finely tuned mindless force that churns out many universes. My money is on the mindless force, since for one thing, minds seem to require material.

That’s basically the point I am making. Both are nonfalsifiable metaphysical constructs which must be examined philosophically as to their plausibility. Neither is more “scientific” than the other. And in my view, God as the explanation wins hands down. But of course, each individual must make his or her own determination about that.

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drj December 29, 2009 at 7:24 am

ayer:
That’s basically the point I am making.Both are nonfalsifiable metaphysical constructs which must be examined philosophically as to their plausibility.Neither is more “scientific” than the other.And in my view, God as the explanation wins hands down.But of course, each individual must make his or her own determination about that.  

I am hesitant to say multi-verse theories are ultimately non-falsible. For all we know, there may be mechanisms to test or rule out the possibility of other universes. We certainly can’t really do that now… but I don’t see any reason to suspect its inherently impossible.

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Rob December 29, 2009 at 7:46 am

Ayer,

Could you elaborate a bit (or refer me to where you already have done so) on your point about “the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus”? I’m specifically interested in what you claim is “the difference between historical evidence and the use of that historical evidence to support an explanation.” I’m wondering if you don’t mean by this difference that in the latter case the historical evidence is somehow bolstered or enjoys a gain in credibility by the contribution it would make in tipping the balance between the choice of explanations at issue. If this is what you mean, it seems to me very problematic, a kind of stage-setting of a problem determined by a commitment to a pre-established solution. (A charge often made, I guess, by theists against substantive naturalists.)

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ildi December 29, 2009 at 8:08 am

Craig’s whole argument is an inference to the best explanation from the historical evidence.

It would be so nice if Craig would stick to what he “knows,” and one thing he obviously is not is a historical researcher.

Admit it ayer, you didn’t even read the article you linked to; here is the phrase “biggest problem in physics” in context, which appears pretty much at the beginning of the article:

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics.

This is called poetic license.

Meanwhile in the meat of the article:

Rees, an early supporter of Linde’s ideas, agrees that it may never be possible to observe other universes directly, but he argues that scientists may still be able to make a convincing case for their existence. To do that, he says, physicists will need a theory of the multiverse that makes new but testable predictions about properties of our own universe. If experiments confirmed such a theory’s predictions about the universe we can see, Rees believes, they would also make a strong case for the reality of those we cannot. String theory is still very much a work in progress, but it could form the basis for the sort of theory that Rees has in mind.

“If a theory did gain credibility by explaining previously unexplained features of the physical world, then we should take seriously its further predictions, even if those predictions aren’t directly testable,” he says. “Fifty years ago we all thought of the Big Bang as very speculative. Now the Big Bang from one milli­second onward is as well established as anything about the early history of Earth.”

The credibility of string theory and the multiverse may get a boost within the next year or two, once physicists start analyzing results from the Large Hadron Collider, the new, $8 billion particle accelerator built on the Swiss-French border. If string theory is right, the collider should produce a host of new particles. There is even a small chance that it may find evidence for the mysterious extra dimensions of string theory. “If you measure something which confirms certain elaborations of string theory, then you’ve got indirect evidence for the multiverse,” says Bernard Carr, a cosmologist at Queen Mary University of London.

Then, near the end, where the cosmic coincidences are listed:

If these cosmic traits were just slightly altered, life as we know it would be impossible.

Key phrase there: life as we know it.

Oliver: I persist because someone posting here was fooled into thinking ayer is philosophically sophisticated…

I’m thinking ayer is more like one of those computer conversation simulators. At first, you think you’re communicating with an active intelligence, but as you delve further and bring more information to the conversation, you notice that the program has canned answers and starts to repeat itself.

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ayer December 29, 2009 at 6:33 pm

ildi: To do that, he says, physicists will need a theory of the multiverse that makes new but testable predictions about properties of our own universe.

That is not falsifiability. In fact, that is no different then the inference to the best explanation based on theism. God makes the best sense of the “properties of our own universe.” We would predict that if design were present at the big bang, the initial conditions would be fine-tuned for life. Find me an article that provides the experiment that will falsify the multiverse theory and you will have a point (and forward it to Leonard Susskind so that he can stop arguing that falsifiability should be dropped from the scientific method when it comes to the multiverse).

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oliver December 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm

ayer: God makes the best sense of the “properties of our own universe.”

..and what is God, exactly?

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ayer December 30, 2009 at 6:46 am

oliver: ..and what is God, exactly?

That being greater than which nothing can be conceived
(see Anselm).

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ildi December 30, 2009 at 8:09 am

God makes the best sense of the “properties of our own universe.” We would predict that if design were present at the big bang, the initial conditions would be fine-tuned for life.

…and the computer simulation begins to repeat itself…

and what is God, exactly?

The physicist hacker, natch! That is what makes the best sense of the properties of our own universe.

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ayer December 30, 2009 at 8:54 am

I know the other side is out of ammo when they are reduced to repeated ad hominem responses; so thanks for the confirmation of my progress, ildi

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ildi December 30, 2009 at 7:29 pm

repeated ad hominem responses

Even this you can’t get right! Let’s review, shall we?

Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn’t there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person’s arguments.

Didn’t you link to an article that a) you didn’t even read, b) actually supported the exact opposite of your premise, and c) from which you cherry-picked a quote to make it seem the opposite?

Don’t you keep saying that there is scientific evidence for God creating the universe, then reject that very science when the predicted qualities of that intelligence don’t match your preconceived notions?

Don’t you keep repeatedly stating that there is secular historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus even though personal belief in plausibility and divinity are not examples of secular historical evidence?

So, even if I called you a disingenuous lying sack of sh*t (for example), that would still not be a an example of an ad hominem fallacy because I would be basing my attack on your actual arguments.

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